Despite the many challenges and set backs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Memphis Creatives have been pushing forward and still achieving new heights.
We'd like to introduce you to one of those Memphis Creatives, Emily Dunn! She is the Founder and Director of Memphis Modern Market and jewelry design of Boho Grit. Emily is a multimedia artist currently focusing on delicate, modern gold jewelry. Minimalism and natural beauty are her signature themes.
We're so excited to Announce a partnership between Memphis Modern Market and Arrow Creative!! Memphis Modern Market is now powered by Arrow Creative. With this partnership Memphis Modern Market can plant roots and focus on growth and expanding the brand under Arrow's umbrella. Arrow was founded on the mission of pointing Memphis Creatives in the right direction to grow and soar, so it's so exciting to see that happening in real time.
If you haven't met Emily Dunn yet, here is your chance to better get to know her.
Can you tell us a little bit about the moment you realized you were an artist? Art has always been part of my life. My mom is a quilter, and my dad was a cinematographer and musician. I was always encouraged to be artistic, but I never considered it as a career until I was in my early 20s. I majored in Anthropology in college and attended Parsons for a Fashion Studies grad program, but I left early because I felt more connected to the room of free art supplies they had than the classes I was taking on fashion theory. I didn't know what to do with myself when I moved home from NYC, but the thing I kept coming back to was creating with my hands. I did my first art market at the end of 2014 just to see what it was like, and I haven't stopped since. My work has evolved as I've grown, but I haven't been able to consider another career since!
How did you learn your necessary skills? A lot of trial and error! As part of my brand Boho Grit, I have done woodworking, macrame, plaster art, textile dying, ceramics, and soldering. If something speaks to me, I will try it and see if it can work with the aesthetic I enjoy. I've been lucky to have friends teach me things that are harder to learn from the internet, like woodworking and soldering. If there is a skill you want to learn and you have a friend who can teach you, don't be afraid to ask! I bet there is something they would love to learn from you as well!
Are there specific opportunities or challenges that focused your career? I've had several jobs related to interior design, and that has shaped how I think about things. Overall aesthetic of a collection and of how work is presented is very important to me. This has carried over into Memphis Modern Market and the pop up shops as well. Cohesiveness in presentation and giving individual pieces of work the proper setting to shine makes a world of difference.
Who do you consider as your most influential mentor? My good friend Claire, of Billie Claire Handmade, has been my sounding board and example for years. She has successfully run several creative businesses and is always honest and openly evaluating what she needs from herself, her business, and the people close to her. She has been a great example of how a young creative woman can be successful, and she also reminds me it's ok to not have all the answers, be vulnerable, and cry sometimes (and sometimes a lot). Those things don't preclude anyone from being successful.
Artists are extremely resourceful and often create multiple streams of income. How do you generate income to support yourself and artistic practice? Since I started selling my work, I have had several jobs to fill in the gaps or in times that I was unable to produce work for personal reasons. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable calling myself an artist because I had this idea that a REAL artist has a studio, shows work in galleries, doesn't need any other source of income... But being an artist means that no matter what else you are doing, you can't stay away from creating. So sometimes generating enough income has meant that I wait tables, bartend, sell high end furniture, style homes, work in a museum, or work in a retail store, among other things. But all of these experiences have contributed skills that serve me in working for myself as an artist now. There are always several ways to create income that are related to what I enjoy doing. I'm so excited to begin work with Arrow to pass this thinking along to other artists in an even bigger way.
How do you measure success in your work? If I am happy with what I am creating and able to support myself, I feel successful.
What artist inspires you the most?
I can't choose one artist. I love drawing inspiration from everyone and everything. The internet has also contributed to this. We have access to so many artists creating in every medium imaginable. My phone camera roll is like a mood board because I am constantly taking screenshots of color schemes, shapes, and designs that speak to me.
Do you have a creative hour, or a time/ place/ or activity that inspires your creativity? I feel most inspired after being active and in nature. Taking a run then drinking some coffee always helps me get in a creative mindset.
Do you have a ritual or do you set specific assignments for yourself? Currently, I work mostly on assignments because I am filling orders or creating items to sell at markets. I guess I could call what I do a ritual. I usually put on a marvel movie and have a big cup of coffee or some wine depending on the time of day!
As a kid what did you see yourself doing as a career? I thought I would be a clothing designer or an architect. I thought those were the only creative jobs I thought could turn into a career. I didn't know I could make up a job!
What told you ‘this is the life for me’? (and when) After the MMM events started in 2019 and I grew to feel a strong connection to the Memphis art community, I knew I was home.
What compromises have you had to make in order to succeed (ie: location of studio, driving a lot, not doing something you really want to do, working seasonally etc) Has it been worth all of your effort? Not having a standard schedule was a compromise I didn't realize I was committing to. Working weekends at art shows and needing to be home to create items for orders after working all day on MMM means I don't have a schedule that aligns well with get-togethers with friends and family. But I'm lucky to have friends who are happy to come spend time with me while I make jewelry in the evenings. My best friend is an artist as well, and she often brings paints so we can have art nights together!
What do you love about being a creative in Memphis? The creative community in Memphis is extremely diverse. Everyone has a unique style and focus. I'm always seeing new things from insanely talented people. On top of that, the Memphis creative community has been very welcoming since I started MMM. Many of the people I've met have become like family.
What are you looking forward to most at Arrow? Arrow's mission of being the primary arts education resource in Memphis is so exciting to me. They are a hub for sharing experience, skills, ideas, and connections. Having MMM be a part of their family provides a great opportunity for growth, both for me personally and for MMM and the resources we are able to provide to Memphis artists.
Without further hesitation, we'd like to officially give Emily a warm welcome to the Arrow Creative Team! Arrow is truly fortunate to have the talented Emily Dunn joining the team. We are confident that she will bring an exciting flare to the retail side of Arrow Creative. Big things are happening keep informed by following @memphismodernmarket & @arrowcreative on Instagram!
"I am constantly looking for moments of calm and simple beauty in daily life. I surround myself with calming textures and colors in my home and create a similar aesthetic in my wardrobe. This appreciation of natural beauty and simplicity translates into my jewelry brand Boho Grit and the furniture pieces I create for homes and stores. Raw stones and natural wood are the focus of my designs, and the designs themselves are meant to emphasize the natural beauty of the materials I use." -Emily Dunn, Memphis Modern Market Founder & Director, Arrow Creative Retail Manager